Since I’m tasting alternative whiskeys to bourbon, I thought I’d continue with a small batch wheat whiskey from Heaven Hill, produced at the Bernheim Distillery. Being a straight wheat whiskey means that Bernheim Original is distilled from a mash of at least 51% wheat and aged for at least 2 years in new charred oak barrels. Prices range up to the high twenties, but I can find store selections for $20 for the past year or so.
The nose reveals that there’s got to still be a pretty good corn component. I smell caramel, straw, sweet corn, sweet tobacco and dark cherries amidst a mild alcohol burn. A drop of water accents the tobacco a bit.
The taste is of vanilla, caramel, straw, honey, candied cherries, ginger, plum and pear. The finish lingers nicely and is fairly spicy with black pepper and ginger and has a leathery feel that fades reasonably quickly. After adding just a drop of water, the whiskey takes on a sweeter profile with less spice on the finish. The only new flavor I detect is lemon drop, but the flavors blend together more than before and the leathery mouthfeel and mild wood on the finish remain.
This isn’t a very complex whiskey, but it’s a solid one with a nice mouthfeel and a good balance of fruit, candy and spice flavors to make things interesting, while finishing with enough wood presence to show some age. I also like the fact that it gives me a bit of insight into wheated bourbons, by showcasing the wheat a bit more. This is a regular bottle, but I have a store selection that I’ll taste at some point in the not-too-distant future for comparison. At $20, you can’t go wrong by trying it out, but it’s worth the experience even at $28.